For Your Own Safety, Reconsider Your Company’s Email Policy

Ever since Internet-connected computers began appearing on company desktops, employees have been using them to send personal messages, surf the web and sign up for coupons. Most people have become so comfortable with having this convenience, and the Internet has become such a major part of our work toolboxes, that we often don’t think about problems that can result from misuse.

But ask any IT person who has had to search through lines of code to identify and remove a virus that was innocently downloaded by an unsuspecting employee, and you’re bound to hear scary stories of the dangers that lurk in the ether between a hacker and your company’s email server.

Businesses should regularly take a good, hard look at their company’s Internet and email use policy. Of course, we all need web access to do our jobs, look things up and communicate with clients, coworkers and customers. That’s a given. But it’s always a worthwhile exercise to learn what problems exist that could create unnecessary downtime and even loss of revenue, all because someone clicked on a link that they shouldn’t have trusted.

When planning your company’s Internet use policy, there are a few things you might want to consider.

Determine what is approved and what is off-limits.

Evaluate how your company as a whole is using the Internet as well as email, and develop a list of uses that are okay. The point here is not to limit anyone’s freedom, but to ensure that your company’s Internet connection and email applications continue to run smoothly. Some companies, for example, will block Web searches that contain certain keywords that have dicey connotations. Others will block specific websites. It’s up to you as a company leader to determine what you’re okay with and what you don’t want your employees to access.

Only allow file attachments that meet certain size requirements to be sent or received.

Many files, including a lot of those that contain multimedia, like high-resolution photos and video clips, can contain a ton of data. Even a short, 30-second video clip can be several megabytes in size. When you send or receive them via email, they can clog up the server connection and cause Internet speeds to diminish. Determine with your IT leader what size files are safe to attach to email messages. A simple notation in your email system can cause it to display an error message if the file is too large. The good news, there are some great web-based options for large files transfers, and some of them are free to use. Once you’ve checked them out, you can add them to your policy as preferred applications for transferring large files.

Instruct employees from clicking on suspicious links or downloading unfamiliar files.

If you have virus protection on your system, this shouldn’t be an issue, as you might get a warning message about bad links or spam attachments. That said, no one should attempt to open a file or click on a link unless they’re absolutely sure it’s safe. Many company employees receive official-looking emails from what purport to be legitimate companies, and it’s become all too easy to click on the wrong link. Hackers are crafty and smart. Teach your employees what they might expect and what to do/not to do if or when they encounter something that just doesn’t seem right.

Hold in-service training for all employees.

If you present your policy as part of a training session or series, it will provide your employees with the opportunity to ask questions and raise issues for consideration. While company Internet connections and email applications are part of doing business, you also have to remember that not everyone is Internet-savvy. It might take a little explaining to convey the policy. It’s much better to do this than to leave any policy details open to interpretation.